Die Fotografien der Propagandakompanien der deutschen Wehrmacht als Quellen zu den Ereignissen im besetzten Polen 1939-1945

Miriam Y. Arani


The photographs taken by the German army’s propaganda units have long been used in the visual presentation of World War II. What is frequently ignored, however, is that these photos were intended as part of a psychological war. They not only served as war propaganda and to glorify the German army, but also as a visual discreditation of alleged or real “enemies”. A number of researchers have been able to demonstrate how the photos taken by the propaganda units were manipulated by both the Ministry of Propaganda and the army high command, thus rebutting the previously widely held view that they constituted “objective” war reporting.
The propaganda units were depoyed on all war fronts, in the German occupied territories, and partly on the “home front” as well. As a record of the course of the war, following the military activities of the German armies, the photographs taken in the East Central European theater of war deserve greater attention, as it was here that the greatest number of soldiers and civilians - including those murdered in the holocaust - met their deaths. With its focus on the production of the propaganda units’ photographs and their contemporary context in German-occupied Poland between 1939 and 1945, the article aims to present for discussion the ambivalent character of these mass visual sources, with their “intentional iconography” on the one hand, and their elements of objective information on the other.